By Ben Brooks -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- While one unfortunate step may have cost James Wood High School's Jacob Carpenter a chance at winning Wednesday's cross country season opener, it didn't prevent the Colonels from edging Skyline's boys in a Northwestern District dual meet.
James Wood placed three of its runners in the top four to overcome the overall victory of Skyline's Marshall Eckert and defeat the Hawks 25-31 on the Colonels' challenging 3.1-mile course.
About two-thirds of the way through the race, Eckert unintentionally stepped on Carpenter's shoelace. The shoe came off, but Carpenter kept running and finished the race in third place, six seconds behind teammate and runner-up Cody Wright (18:17).
"No thought," Carpenter said when asked if he considered stopping to put his shoe back on. "It would have taken too much time."
Despite the mishap, James Wood coach Mike Onda couldn't have been much more pleased with his team's early effort, especially considering that the Colonels have the large Chancellor Invitational on Saturday.
"I thought it was good for our first race," Onda said. "The big thing you look at is the splits between [runners] one and five. It was less than a minute, and that's good to be that close together. Now, we just have to keep sliding forward a bit."
James Wood's Rachel Carson, meanwhile, put her best healthy foot forward and won the girls' race with a time of 22:12. Carson, who lost nearly all of last year's cross country season with tendinitis in her left foot, led Wood's girls to a 1-2-3 finish and a 19-42 victory over the Hawks.
"I'm just happy to be getting back out here," said Carson, who rebounded with a strong spring track season last year and hopes to recapture her sophomore cross country form, which had her knocking on the door of an all-state finish.
"Based on what I did in track and where I am now, I'm hopeful of getting back there and maybe even improving," Carson said.
Skyline coach Mike Tanner, who hopes his young boys' team will make strides in the always competitive Northwestern District (the top three teams in the five-school district qualify for regional competition), said James Wood's hilly course was right up Eckert's alley.
"He's a tough runner with a lot of guts," Tanner said of his sophomore, who posted a time of 18:11. "That's the type of runner who comes out on top on this course."
Eckert said it was all about picking the right time to make his move.
"It's a lot easier to take positions on a course like this," he said. "When they slow down you've just got to go."
David Pugh (18:26) gave the Colonels a fourth-place finish. Blake Armstrong (18:47) took seventh, and Danny Aldstadt (19:14) was ninth. Skyline's Sean Park (18:35) placed fifth and Clay Jones (18:39) was sixth.
Following Carson on Wednesday were teammates Whitney Dennis (23:21) and Samantha Radcliffe (23:36) in second and third, respectively. Skyline's Judy Grigsby (24:00) and Noa Sager (24:26) took fourth and fifth. Lauryl Andrus (sixth, 24:33) and Brooke Krossman (seventh, 24:55) added to James Wood's team total.